The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was celebrated in March.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
This day is timed to coincide with the execution of the Negro demonstration in the South African township of Sharpeville by the apartheid regime in 1960.
This year, the event turned 60 years and especially magnificent ceremonies were planned.
But due to quarantine measures taken to stop the Covid – 19 pandemic, the United Nations leadership was forced to postpone indefinitely all activities related to the event.
But it does not negate the fact that the most memorable date and urgency of the fight against racism and xenophobia.
No less interesting is that the theme of apartheid and the struggle of the indigenous population of South Africa for independence has become one of the topical issues during the current presidential campaign in the United States.
At the same time, there is evidence of an attempt by the American establishment to rewrite history in its favour.
So, the presidential election race favourite candidate in the Democratic Party Joseph R. Biden Jr (Joe Biden) actively raises this theme, seeking the votes of African-Americans.
The former US vice president claims that he was personally at the forefront of the war against apartheid in South Africa and was even arrested there for trying to meet with former South African president Nelson Mandela (now late).
In at least three campaign appearances in February Biden told a similar story. On a trip to South Africa years ago, he said, he was arrested as he sought to visit Mandela in prison.
“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Biden said at a campaign event in South Carolina.
“I had the great honour of meeting him. I had the great honour of being arrested with our UN ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Roben Island.”
But if Biden, then a United States senator from Delaware, was in fact arrested while trying to visit Mandela, he did not mention it in his 2007 memoir when writing about a 1970s trip to South Africa, and he has not spoken of it prominently on the 2020 campaign trail.
A check of available news accounts by The New York Times turned up no references to an arrest.
Andrew Young, a former congressman and mayor of Atlanta who was the US ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979, said he had traveled with Biden over the years, including to South Africa.
But Young said he had never been arrested in South Africa and expressed skepticism that members of Congress would have faced arrest there.
“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Young, now 87, said in a telephone interview.
Young added: “Now, people were being arrested in Washington. I don’t think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa.”
So we can almost say with certainty that all this Biden said is, maybe fiction and more than a free interpretation of the facts.
Such an approach to the history of the struggle against South African apartheid is actually very characteristic of the modern western world and, above all, American politicians and the media.
If you listen to them, one would get the impression that the West has constantly and consistently opposed racial discrimination on the African continent.
We can recall the soulful speech of the former America president Barack Obama at the funeral of Mandela in December 2013.
In a long lecture, the then US president sang an ode to the apartheid fighter Mandela.
Here are just a few excerpts from his speech.
“To the people of South Africa — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.
“His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph.
“Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy. ….
…. Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe — Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.….
…. Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start held little prospect of success.
“Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice.”
It was a really good performance. Obama then streamed these lectures on Mandela.
But in his speeches, Obama made no mention of the role of the United States in this fight.
And the reason is simple: for a very long time, America and its European allies were on the other side of the barricades from Mandela, actively supporting the racist regime of the Union of South Africa (as South Africa was called until 1961).
Obama never once mentioned the contribution of American intelligence in the capture and arrest of the leader of the South African resistance, which turned into a 27-year prison sentence.
It is much easier to admire Mandela and tell stories about the alleged arrests of American politicians in South Africa than to admit the guilt of their own state in the persecution of the current idol.
That’s the day of the fight against racism the world heard statements made by various western leaders about the inadmissibility of racial discrimination, saw them licking tears off their faces for the victims of Sharpeville massacre of 1960, when several dozen protesters, including women and children were killed.
But as before, either one-quarter of the western states did not take responsibility for any involvement in the tragedy and did not admit actual promotion of South African apartheid.
But everything is quite obvious. The Union of South Africa was then generally part of the British empire, and London is directly responsible for the actions of its subjects.
Just a month before the execution in Sharpeville, South Africa was visited by then British prime minister Harold Macmillan who addressed its parliament.
Now, with that speech, which went down in history called “The Wind of Change,” English historians are trying to justify London: they say that the head of Westminster explicitly condemned apartheid.
In fact, not a word of condemnation of racist politics came from the mouth of the then prime minister.
To the contrary, Macmillan praised mutual cooperation, attributed Union of South Africa to the “free world”, opposing the Soviet Union and its satellites.
And he explained the call to prepare for the recognition of the independence of the countries of Equatorial Africa quite simply: the example of Asia had already shown that, if not recognized these countries would deploy to the socialist camp.
That’s the whole point of forced “changes.”
We must not forget that it was the USSR and other socialist countries that consistently condemned both racism and apartheid, which until the 1960s was official policy in several southern US states.
And any calls for racial equality then in America instantly received the stigma of “communist propaganda.”
Yes, the bloody events in Sharpeville, or rather, the international reaction to them, forced the Western countries to reconsider their attitude to the racial issue and the politics of the South African regime.
It was because of this that America had to support, for the first time, the UN Security Council resolution of April 1, 1960, which finally condemned “racial discrimination and segregation in the Union of South Africa” and demanded the end to Apartheid.
Again, Washington did this forcibly – precisely in order not to push away from itself the new States of Africa and Asia, which were then liberated from colonial bonds.
And we must not forget (but British historians sometimes shamefully omit this fact) that only two countries abstained in voting for this resolution – France and Great Britain.
McMillan then apologised to the then prime minister of South Africa Hendrik Verwoerd for the fact that London is not vetoed, explaining that thus managed to avoid more serious consequences in the form of the special UN Assembly condemning the massacre in Sharpeville and a wide resonance.
But now, during lectures on the struggle for racial equality, western leaders, of course, do not remember these unpleasant nuances.
Otherwise, a logical question arises: “so whose merit is that apartheid and racial discrimination are now condemned at the official level?”
It turns out that just the “free western world” has been a hindrance to this for a long time.
So much for the “wind of change”, or rather, rewriting history and rearranging facts upside down.
And finally, in the United States the Bill on recognition of lynching as a federal crime, introduced back in 1918, was approved by the American House of Representatives only in February this year.
Just think, just a little over a century has passed.